Penn State

Penn State vs. Eastern Michigan: A Solid Win at a High Cost

Today we were in the mood for a simple day, and Penn State's game against Eastern Michigan fit the bill.  We were in commuter mode:  leave for the game as late as possible, don't bother with a tailgate or even drinks, get something to eat and drink in the stadium before the game, and go home immediately after the game. 

Nothing fancy.  No prep.  Keep in mind that we never do much of a tailgate anyhow.  It's usually a sub from Wegman's, a few sodas in the cooler.  But even to get a sub sandwich from Wegman's on game day in State College, you have to order it a day in advance.  There is that much demand.  By the way, it's worth it when you're in the mood.

Basically it was a game good for families who want to bring their kids to their first Penn State game and can buy tickets cheap at the game.  It wasn't crowded, neither in the parking lots nor in the stadium. 

In fact, I didn't see too many scalpers even trying to sell tickets.  There were plenty available from fans trying to get at least some return from their extra tickets.  $10 or $20 would do on a face value of $55 each (minimum $70 each if you want to include the STEP plan donation).

And there were kids everywhere!  In our tailgating area, in the stands.

Our row was very comfortable due to the vacancies. 

There's something to be said for having lots of room and for having friendly fans surrounding you, who are just there to see a Penn State game - any game.  I'm not sure Penn State athletics agrees, they lose a lot of revenues when the stands aren't full.  But that's another story.

As for my photos of the stands, I have yet to get a great photo of Beaver Stadium for the masthead on my blog after the STEP plan re-organized the stadium. 

The Alabama game white-out was more of a pink-out due to all the crimson in the stands.  Today the stands, despite an announced crowd of 95,636, looked more like a crowd of 85,000 to us.  Lots of empty seats.

Still, with the sun shining and a friendly crowd who seemed, at times, more into completing the wave or catching candy than watching the game, it was an okay afternoon.  With no traffic to speak of after the game, we were home 15 minutes after the game!

I would call it a low-key environment.  Even the students in the student section to my right sat rather than stood!

It was also a relief to see Joe Paterno prowling the sidelines again, although I kept hoping that some big bruising football player would be given the role to protect him.  After the game was well in hand, in the second half, he returned to the press box.  Better to be safe than sorry, I guess. 

On favorite jersey day, a thinly disguised attempt to get Penn State fans to buy more merchandise, I was wearing #1 as a statement for Rob Bolden.  I had felt that for the games against Alabama and Temple, Bolden was slightly better, with the best long-term potential.

Actually, though, the jersey itself was the Ladies' X's and O's football camp jersey from this summer, with a #1 on the back.  I wasn't about to spend a penny for favorite jersey day.  I have enough Penn State stuff in my closet!

At half-time, it was announced that the most popular jersey was No. 22.  No. 1 came in third place, ahead of No. 11 at eighth place. Seems as though the crowd, at least those who wore jerseys, also favored Bolden over McGloin.

As for the game itself, the win came at a high cost. 

Linebacker Michael Mauti is now out for the season due to a left ACL injury.  Michael Mauti was the defense's leader in tackles.  He will be sorely missed this year.  He did take a medical redshirt in 2009 for a right ACL injury.  So let's hope he can recover and return for the 2012 season to save a high potential career in the NFL. 

Cornerback D'Anton Lynn was carried off the field on a board with what appeared to be a neck injury, a very tense moment in the stands as we watched the team get down on their knees and pray for him.  But later he was released after hospital observation.  Sounds like he'll be okay and it's likely we will see him back this season.  He is also one of Penn State's better defensive players. 

Towards the end of the game, there were at least three Eastern Michigan injuries as well, including two players who were helped off the field with apparent knee or ankle problems.    I don't know how serious these injuries are - all the press attention has been devoted to Mauti and Lynn.   But this was a bit too much at the end of a 34-6 loss for Eastern Michigan. 

I just wanted the game to get over before someone else was downed!  There were too many reminders of how brutal the game of football can be for the individuals who play it.

For Saturday's game, Matt McGloin clearly won the quarterback battle.  In a game where the defenders forced Penn State to throw the ball a lot, Matt McGloin was 14 of 17 through the air and achieved 220 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.  

Against Eastern Michigan, Bolden was 7 of 13 for 115 yards and one touchdown.  That 71-yard pass to Devon Smith for a touchdown, while a great call by Bolden, can be attributed mostly to Devon Smith's running speed. Bolden also had one interception at the beginning of the 4th quarter that gave Eastern Michigan a short field for a score. 

As for the quarterback controversy, I can see where the coaches go back and forth on which quarterbacks should play.  I also believe that one of the reasons we have had this controversy for so long is that Penn State's schedule basically allowed for it. 

The two-quarterback system, for all its faults, hasn't harmed us so far.  We would have probably lost to Alabama in any case.  They were the better team. 

We came close to it harming us at Temple, but it didn't. 

And by the way, as the Temple-Maryland score was being announced at Beaver Stadium, we were all putting that close score at Temple into perspective! Congratulations to Temple for that 38-7 win against Maryland.  Now, go Attack the MAC!!!

It is likely that Penn State can afford one more game with two quarterbacks.  And if it helps us retain both of these quarterbacks, then maybe that's good.  By the Iowa game on October 8, the coaches need to decide.

We play Indiana this weekend.  It is a 1-3 team so far in their non-conference schedule. Indiana has lost to Ball State, Virginia, and North Texas.  They won against South Carolina State. It doesn't look like this will be the year that Indiana will upset Penn State. 

But of course, anything can happen on any given Saturday.  Unlike me, the team can't think this will be an easy win!  They still need to be focused on improving.  Especially when it comes to false start and other penalties.

We can't afford to not be able to make field goals, as was the case against Temple.  So another good sign from the Eastern Michigan game was watching punter (now also kicker) Anthony Fera be perfect on extra points and field goals.   He even belted a kickoff into the end zone for the first time this season.   He also had a career long 55-yard punt. 

Freshman Sam Ficken was given the opportunity for a 43-yard field goal kick with 8:32 left in the fourth quarter.  The fact that he nailed it was a good sign that perhaps our kicking problems can be solved with more experience. 

And finally, our defense.  A fumble forced by Eric Latimore and recovered by Jack Crawford in the first quarter.  Another fumble recovered by Glenn Carson in the second quarter.  A pass intercepted by Nick Sukay in the second quarter.  These defensive plays stopped Eastern Michigan from gaining any momentum in the first half, leading to a score of 17-0 at halftime.  The defense held Eastern Michigan to no more than two first downs on each possession in the 3rd quarter before their drives stalled. 

Towards the beginning of the 4th quarter, with the score favoring Penn State 31-3, Penn State called off the dogs and put in the second and third string players, the "scrubs" so to speak.  And so we got to see yet a third quarterback, Shane McGregor, get some reps. 

And my true favorite jersey, belonging to offensive lineman #75 Eric Shrive, finally got into a game (for the reasons why he's a favorite, click here for an earlier article about Lift for Life).

So, now we start Big Ten play in the Leaders Division.  Penn State is exactly where I predicted we would be at this point in the season, a 3-1 record. 

However, with the injuries sustained by Michael Mauti, D'Anton Lynn, and also running back Brandon Beachum, who didn't play on Saturday, I'm not very confident about my predictions for October of a clean sweep.

But for now, it's one game at a time.  And a continued focus on getting better.

Go Nittany Lions!  Beat the Hoosiers!

This article also appears on View From The Stands - Penn State Football, where you can also view a slideshow of photos from this game.